“How do you solve a problem like Benny
“How do you catch an ideologue and pin him down
“How do you find a word that means Benny
“Small-minded, doctrinaire, a clown?”
—Mr. Rodgers and MC Hammerstein, "Benny"
OK, Benny the Pontificator is at it again and this time he's pontificating on how it'd be better to die of AIDS than to ever even consider using a condom. He even went as far as to state that condoms "can actually increase the problem of AIDS”. And he said all this on a trip this week to AIDS-ravaged sub-Saharan Africa. Seriously.
If you missed it, check it out here: Pope tells Africa 'condoms wrong'
No Sex, No Problem
Yeah, yeah, sexual abstinence would be a great way to end the AIDS pandemic, but it has nothing to do with how actual human beings live in the real world. It’s a great idea in a pamphlet or a medieval Vatican document, but not so great in the world of the living.
In fact, the Pope's advice is a lot like Sarah Palin's sex ed advice to her daughter: "Wait till you're married". And we all know how well that worked out.
It's also somewhat reminiscent of that great plan to defeat malaria: "Everyone stay under your malaria nets 24/7".
Of course, marital fidelity is obviously a good thing to preach, but the moronic, nonsensical anti-condom stand of the Catholic Church, based on its asinine doctrine against all forms of birth control, is not just ridiculous, it's criminal.
Far from being "just his opinion", these "lessons" actually cause real people's real deaths in the real world, leaving real children as all-too-real orphans.
OK, I can feel myself about to go off on a full-length rant about this buffoon, but I've already done that recently, so I don't need to do that again here.
Right now I just want to ask one question, which is this: We've sent a mission to Mars, we've landed people on the moon, we've cloned sheep and cows and other animals—don't you think that we could have come up with some sort of full body-size condom to put over this guy by now? I mean, something to once and for all stop the awful discharges from his mind and mouth. It'd not only protect the people of Africa from his mindless, dangerous ramblings, but it'd actually—like regular-size condoms—save lives.
That's right, people: how do you solve a problem like the pontiff? How do you take a conservative ideologue and quiet him down? Well, it's simple really: The man-sized condom, that's how.
Four Solemn Questions
Now, at the end of the day, I can hear people saying, who really gives a fuck what Pope Benedict XVI thinks? I mean, who is this guy anyway? Seriously, did Jesus ever give a sermon condemning condom use as one of the great sins against God? I think not.
But for those of you with a more sensitive disposition, perhaps the question is why do I pick on poor Benny so, what with all those other equally ridiculous religious leaders spewing equally ridiculous nonsense?
Well, the difference clearly is sheer influence and ability to cause harm. The Catholic Church has over one billion members. That's one billion people who are supposed to obey this Benny guy's every whim. And that's why he obviously deserves more attention than others when he goes off on yet another homophobic, sexist, or mindless anti-condom rant.
But surely no one actually follows any of the Church's archaic rules in the modern world, do they?
Well, let's just hope that Alain Fogue, an AIDS campaigner in Cameroon, is right when he says that: "The people will not follow what the Pope is saying. He lives in heaven and we are on earth. To claim that condoms 'aggravate' the problem of Aids goes totally against all the efforts made by the Cameroonian government and other actors involved in the struggle against Aids in Cameroon."
It'd be wonderful if he were right about this. And it'd make things so much easier if most people were in fact smart enough to simply ignore whatever Benny had to say as irrelevant to life in the modern world. But sadly we all know that some people, ludicrous as it may seem, still think of the Pope as infallible. You know, God's gift to humans and all that.
But, then again, perhaps this Alain Fogue guy isn't all that far off. According to a recent poll commissioned by Catholics for Choice: 90 percent of Catholics in Mexico, 86 percent in Ireland, 79 percent in the United States, 77 percent in the Philippines, and 59 percent in Ghana agreed with a statement in the poll that "using condoms is pro-life because it helps save lives by preventing the spread of AIDS".
However, one noticeable thing about that poll is that the country where the fewest people agreed with the statement, Ghana, is right there in Africa. And the 41 percent who didn't agree are a very large group indeed. There are also a whole lot of people in those other countries surveyed that didn't agree either.
Enough about condoms and AIDS already, but before I go I do have one last thing to say on the Benny front.
Aside from attempting to scare people off of condoms on his current trip to Africa, "His Holiness" also warned Africa's Catholics that even though the Catholic Church in Africa is the fastest growing church in the world, it does face competition from increasingly popular evangelical movements and "the growing influence of superstitious forms of religion”.
"Superstitious forms of religion"? What exactly is your form of religion, Benny? Scientific?
It reminds me of (devout Christian) Stevie Wonder's smash '72 hit "Superstition", in which he chastises everyone else for their silly superstitious beliefs, all the while never questioning his own:
"When you believe in things
That you don't understand
Then you suffer
Superstition ain't the way"
But at least Stevie could write a killer hook. What, I ask, has Benny got to offer anyone? Well, besides a quicker route to heaven, or at least death, after their AIDS-infected husbands come home and give them some good ol' fashioned condomless loving.
Oh Benny, if you were simply a character in a comedy skit you'd be so much more useful and so totally hilarious. Adorable even. But as a leader with great influence over masses of impoverished, uneducated followers, preaching impractical and unrealistic solutions that will unquestionably end up costing many more lives in AIDS-ravaged sub-Saharan Africa (and elsewhere), you're really not all that funny. Not even slightly amusing.
Stephen Lewis: An Actual Authority
Finally, let me just say that anyone who truly cares about the fight against AIDS in Africa and wants to hear from a real authority on the issue should definitely check out Stephen Lewis and his foundation. Now there's a real hero for you.
Mike Cowie is a writer currently embarked on a book about his three-year trip across Asia with his wife, Sonoko. Read more of Mike’s views on his Web site.